From Academic Kids

Pendolino is a tilting train used in Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. It was developed and manufactured by Fiat Ferroviaria, and is now owned by Alstom.

The idea of a tilting train became popular in the 1960s and 1970s when various rail operators, impressed by the high-speed rail systems being put into place in France and Japan, wondered how they could similarly speed up travel without building a dedicated parallel rail network (as those two countries were doing). By tilting, the train could round curves designed for slower trains without causing undue discomfort to passengers.



In Italy various possibilities along these lines were explored (including one early design for fixed carriages with tilting seats). A number of prototypes were built and tested, and in 1975 a prototype Pendolino, the ETR 401, was put into public service, built by Fiat and operated by Italian State Railways. In 1987 operation began by a full fleet of updated Pendolinos (called the ETR 450), which incorporated some technologies from British Rail's ill-fated APT project. In 1993 the next generation, the ETR-460, began service.


A Finnish S220 Pendolino in lake scenery.
A Finnish S220 Pendolino in lake scenery.

The Finnish model, the S220, is based on the ETR-460, adapted to the specific requirements of VR (Finnish State Railways) and to the cold climatic conditions. The first two units were made by Rautaruukki-Transtech, a rolling stock company now part of Spanish Talgo.

The Pendolino has been conceived as an EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) to keep axle load to an extremely low level in order to allow the train to negotiate curves at a speed higher by up to 35% if compared with conventional Intercity trains (loco plus trailers).

The electrical traction equipment, with continuous power of 4000 kW, includes GTO chopper/inverter and asynchronous motors. The tilting system in the bogie, located entirely under the body, has permitted the reorganisation of the vestibules and passenger compartment areas. The bogie-to-body connection is extremely simple and easy to make, with clear advantages for maintenance.

The body, which exploits large aluminium extrusion technology, has substantial modularity and allows for extremely low axle weight, whilst fully respecting the highest safety standards, and allows the best exploitation of the space with different loading gauges.

The trains for VR are composed of 6 vehicles, two traction units, each unit consists of two motor coaches with a 4QC/inverter/converter with four traction motors (one for each bogie), plus a trailer coach with high voltage equipment (25 kV and 50 Hz) and traction transformer. The end coaches are provided with aerodynamic shaped driving cab; on of the trailer coaches (TTC) has a special featured bar section.

United Kingdom

Missing image
A British Rail Class 390 Pendolino in Birmingham.

In 2004 Virgin Trains in the UK began operating custom-designed Pendolino trains known as the British Rail Class 390 on its West Coast Main Line franchise.

Two decades earlier British Rail had planned to bring tilting train technology to the same line with the APT project. Technical problems and lack of the political will to overcome them, forced the abandonment of this early attempt.


Slovenian Railways operates a Pendolino tilting train similar to the Italian model, on the main lines of Slovenia. For more information, see InterCitySlovenija.

The future

Currently, an increasing number of countries in Central and Eastern Europe have ordered Pendolino trainsets, including Poland. For this reason, the Pendolino-type train is set to be the one with the greatest penetration in the high-speed market of Central and Eastern Europe.

Technical information

  • Max. speed: 220 km/h
  • Power: 4 000 kW
  • Traction motors: 8 Asynchronous three-phase AC
  • Acceleration 0 - 100 km/h: 57 s 810 m (a=0.50 m/s2)
  • Acceleration 0 - 200 km/h: 193 s 6 800 m (a=0.37 m/s2)
  • Braking 140 - 0 km/h: 750 m (a=1.01 m/s2)
  • Braking 200 - 0 km/h: 1 650 m (a=0.94 m/s2)
  • Tractive effort at rims: 163 kN
  • Length: 158.9 m
  • Body width: 3.2 m
  • Height: 3.73 m
  • Weight: 328 t (originally 316 t)
  • Max Axle load: 14,3 t (originally 13.25 t)
  • Wheel diameter: new 890 mm, fully worn 850 mm
  • Gauge: 1524 mm
  • Max. tilting angle: 8
  • Total number of seats: 309 [307 + 2 H] (originally 262 + 2H)
  • Max. noise level inside: 65 dBA
  • Usage temperature range: -40 C / +35 C

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